Friday, January 9, 2015

5 Tips for Toddler Roadtrips

Having made the 300 mile roadtrip to my hometown twice in the past two weeks, I think I've figured out a few tricks that made the trip a bit smoother. On our first trip, Joe was there as well, and let me just say it's a whole different game when there are two adults vs. one. So these tips will be for solo parents, who have to somehow keep a toddler entertained while focusing on driving. Phone apps are out, because if your kid's anything like mine, he loves pressing the home button every few minutes then crying because the app disappeared. So these are all tips that can be done without taking your eyes off the road or contorting your arms in unnatural ways to reach behind you.

1. Snacks - and plenty of them! I know this one is obvious, but one thing I did learn after a few short practice runs around town before the big trip is that snacks should be packed in small portions in LOTS of ziplock baggies, as opposed to filling one baggie to the brim (or even halfway, for that matter). According to my careful calculations 90% of the contents of each bag will wind up smooshed in the carseat, or on the floor, and about half of the time the entire bag winds up on the floor. Lesson learned: keep lots of snack bags within arms reach so you can just grab a new one and hand it back as needed (ie - every few minutes). Also, Ez's hand dexterity isn't at full capacity just yet, so I make sure to open the bags and roll down the sides a few times to make it easier for him to grab his grape halves or goldfish.

2. Mystery Grab Bag of Toys: Since it's right after Christmas it just so happens that we are fully stocked on new toys that haven't gotten too much use yet, and therefore haven't lost their novelty. I just threw a bunch of random toys in a bag and kept it within arm's reach so that I could hand them back one at a time as the other ones got dropped or lost their allure. Another little trick that worked surprisingly well was to put a bunch of little toys in a plastic cup and give him the whole cup to play with. Not sure why kids like removing things from containers so much, but apparently that's a game in itself. One thing I wished I'd brought more of was board books. I just happened to have one floating around the car, and that kept Ez entertained for a decent amount of time, although I did have to improvise and pretend to read the book while he turned the pages. Thankfully he didn't seem to mind my poorly made-up plot.

3. Car Games: This really depends on the age of the kid, but the two games that kept Ez most occupied were "Spot the Big Rig" and "What Sound Does a ____ Make?" (Ez got the biggest kick out of monkey and goat sounds, in case you were wondering.) I resorted to these tactics about two-thirds of the way through our trip, when most of the toys were scattered on the floor and Ez was all snacked out. I Spy is a classic hit for older kids.

 4. Timing is Everything: We began our trip right after Ez's Gymboree class. Forty-five minutes of climbing and sliding and crawling and running meant that Ez was asleep within ten minutes of getting in the car. We made it about 120 miles before Ez woke up, and I doubt the trip would have gone nearly as smoothly without burning off that excess energy and getting a good nap in.

5. Plan More Frequent Stops: Pre-Ez I would have stopped once for gas, picked up a taco bell bean burrito to eat in the car, and then driven straight through. But I'll take a 6.5 hour trip with a happy toddler over a 5 hour trip with a crying toddler any day. All in all we stopped twice, for a total of an hour and fifteen minutes. Once for lunch and once for gas and to stretch our legs and get a change of scenery. My guess is the stopping only becomes more frequent once your toddler is potty trained.

1. Snacks 2. Board Books 3. My Busy Books Toys 4. Bonus Toy from Gas Station

And probably the most important tip of all is that you're gonna patience. Lots of it. Even when you turn around and see a certain someone purposely dumping a bag of cheerios all over the car. Try to remember that it's no fun being strapped in a car for hours at a time. Messes can be cleaned up. The most important thing is that everyone arrives safely.

We've still got our return trip ahead of us, so feel free to share any other tried and true tips that have worked for you! I'm almost scared to publish this because Ez could switch it up and decide that none of these tips work on the ride home, which will make for a fun six+ hours.

Linking up for:
5 on Friday


oh hey Friday!


  1. Great tips! We don't travel much but when we have before u always brought snacks and games along!

  2. These are excellent tips! I haven't braved a very long road trip with my 3 year old yet, but I'm going to hang on to this list for when we do! ;)

  3. I totally agree with snacks! Food definitely soothes the savage beast! :)

  4. I love these tips! I am going to have to come up with a bunch of ideas for how to keep my five year old occupied in a few months when we have a 16 hour drive!

  5. Aria is fabulous on short trips, like the hour and a half to Disney. I give her nothing at all but her milk and she is just fine. We did a trip to PA a year ago and it was awful. She was great. But we did it in the dead of night so she would sleep and it was so so so hard on mom and dad. We use to do that all the time...pre kid. Clearly we are not cut out for it anymore. I flat out refuse to do a long trip anytime soon, I'm still scarred.
    I hate snacks in the car. Drives me nuts when I find smooshed anything in her car seat. But I'd totally pack a zillion mini snacks. And, yes containers and little toys to take out? The best toy ever! Who knew =)

  6. Oh this is so helpful! We haven't done a long road-trip yet (nothing longer than an hour and a half) with our 11 month old. We have some travel plans this year and I'll be taking these tips to heart! Thanks for sharing! :)

  7. Such a wonderful post. Yes to all… And a portable DVD player!